Dayton v. Kennedy

Returning Senator Mark Dayton to the Ranks of the Idle Rich in 2006


Dayton Potpourri

Check our Powerline's wonderful amalgamation of various and sundry Daytonisms over the last 18 months or so.

Like you haven't already.



The "under" takes it. Big time. The most damning numbers? Dayton continues his party's hemorrhaging with male voters by dropping 27 points in a year. More alarming has to be the 31 point drop among young people -- and this after a high profile fawning by Jon Stewart on The Daily Show:

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Minnesota Sens. Mark Dayton and Norm Coleman both took hits to their public images in the past year, with their job approval ratings falling below 50 percent, according to the latest Minnesota Poll.

Dayton, a Democrat who's up for reelection next year, took the heaviest blow: His approval rating declined by 15 points in a year, from 58 percent to 43 percent. The approval rating for Coleman, who just began his third year in office, fell by 7 points, from 54 to 47 percent.

Dayton's job approval decreased among all categories of Minnesotans, grouped by age, education, income, party and ideology, with the largest drop among men -- down 27 points -- and 18-24 year olds -- down 31 points.

Coleman's biggest declines came among 25-34 year olds -- down by 19 points -- and those living in the seven-county metropolitan region -- down by 13 points.

"I don't like either one of them," said Joe Cornet, 62, of Vadnais Heights, one of the 832 Minnesotans who took part in the poll. Of Coleman, he said: "[President] Bush tells him to jump, and he says, 'How high?' I don't think he represents anybody in Minnesota." Of Dayton, he said: "I just don't know where the guy is coming from."

The poll represents a sharp turnaround for both senators, who had healthy increases in their approval ratings the last time their performance was measured in a Minnesota Poll, in January 2004. At that time, both senators broke above the 50 percent mark for the first time.

Coleman, who was attending a Republican retreat in West Virginia, was unavailable for comment. But Erich Mische, his chief of staff, said the results would do nothing to affect the way in which Coleman approaches the job.

"A poll is a poll a poll," Mische said. "The numbers aren't surprising. We've just come off an incredibly high-profile presidential campaign ... in a state where the race was very close" and the electorate was polarized.

Dayton in spotlight

Dayton expressed disappointment with the results and said he must "do a better job of communicating what I'm doing here in Washington." He said it's hard to speculate what happened.

"It's been a very politically controversial year," Dayton said. "I made controversial decisions in terms of closing my office to protect my staff and even challenging the confirmation of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. ... I would believe that they are part of the explanation, but I can't know for sure."

The poll, which was conducted from Sunday, Jan. 23, through Wednesday, came during a week in which Dayton was in the headlines. First, Rep. Gil Gutknecht, R-Minn., announced that he was considering a run against Dayton, who is regarded by the Cook Political Report as the most vulnerable Senate Democrat seeking reelection next year. Then Dayton gave a highly publicized speech on the Senate floor, accusing Rice of lying to the American people and Congress while making the case for war against Iraq in 2002. In his Tuesday speech, Dayton said his vote against Rice was "a statement that this administration's lying must stop now."

Dayton, who routinely accuses the Bush administration of making false statements, received national -- even worldwide -- attention after making his remarks as part of such a high-profile debate. His office was flooded with more than 4,000 e-mails and phone calls, most of them positive, and Dayton was featured on Jon Stewart's "The Daily Show." Republicans accused Dayton of trying to raise money for his reelection campaign by raising a ruckus. When Bush was asked at a news conference about Dayton's remark, the president replied: "There are 99 senators other than that person and I'm looking forward to working with as many members as I can."

In interviews after the poll was conducted, some of the respondents made reference to Dayton's criticism of Rice.

"I don't think that was right," said Cornet, who normally votes Democratic.

Clarence Sutton, 84, a Republican from Gaylord, called Dayton "a disgrace to the state of Minnesota" and said that his attack on Rice was "rotten representation for the state of Minnesota."

Dayton's approval rating was down even among his fellow DFLers and liberals, by 10 points.

Dayton, a fifth-year senator who defeated then-incumbent Republican Rod Grams, finds himself in much the same position as Grams, who had an identical 43 percent approval rating in January of 2000.

Dayton's Approval Number

After reporting today that 56% of Minnesotans say 'a fair Iraqi election is not possible', we wait with baited breath for Mark Dayton's approval numbers Monday from the Star Tribune Minnesota Poll.

DvK's over/under number is 53%. Place your bets. The Pioneer Press had Dayton's approval number at 47% recently, but we all know they are notorious for undersampling Loring Park coffee houses.

But read this first. And this.

'We Have Defeated the Terrorists Today'

Remember that this wouldn't have happened if Minnesota's Democratic Senator had his way.


Dayton Consultant Likely Suicide

DvK passes along the following with condolences...

Newsday (New York)

January 29, 2005 Saturday CITY EDITION

Political consultant found dead; suicide eyed

A longtime political consultant who worked on many Democratic campaigns in New York and elsewhere was found dead Thursday night in his Manhattan apartment, an apparent suicide, police said Friday.

The body of Phil Friedman, 50, was discovered in his Jane Street residence in Greenwich Village by a building superintendent, police said.

Police said pills were found and there was a note left on a desk beside the bed. Friends said Friedman had been struggling with depression for many years.

Friedman was associated in the 1970s with the firm of the well-known consultant David Garth, former colleagues said.

John LoCicero, a friend and ally of former Mayor Edward I. Koch, recalled working with Friedman in Koch's successful 1977 campaign and considered him "brilliant."

"Over the years we'd see each other from time to time. He was just a fun kind of guy," LoCicero said.

Later, Friedman was deeply involved in the unsuccessful campaigns of City Council President Andrew Stein for mayor and John Dyson for U.S. Senate. Friedman was involved in other Senate campaigns out of state.

On Friday, news of his death shocked staffers in the office of Sen. Mark Dayton (D-Minn.), in whose campaign he most recently was involved.

He also assisted in the campaign of Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, ex-colleagues said, and was friendly with people in Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's circle.

Rearranging the Deck Chairs

For 15 years Brian Lambert did an enormous service to his readers as entertainment reporter for the St. Paul Pioneer Press. You could reliably expect that the if he endorsed a movie, CD or TV show it simply had to be awful.

After resigning from the Pioneer Press last week, Lambert has now signed on with the Dayton campaign. Things look grave if the distinguished gentleman from Minnesota needs help securing the Uptown indie rock vote at this late hour:

Sen. Mark Dayton has hired former St. Paul Pioneer Press media critic Brian Lambert as his senior media adviser, Lambert confirmed Friday.

He won't be Dayton's spokesman, but he will "be working with the press in the Twin Cities and around the state, helping with op/ed pieces and writing speeches," Lambert said of his new job, which begins Monday.

"I met Mark Dayton 20 years ago and was truly impressed. I think he is a decent, thoughtful guy," he added.

Dayton: Breathing Easier?

With KSTP-TV's Tom Hauser saying yesterday that he thinks Mike Ciresi could mount a challenge to Mark Dayton for the Democratic nomination in 2006, it seems there is another potential challenger Dayton may have to worry a bit less about.

KMSP-TV has some pictures of "lobbyist" Bill Luther partying at the state capitol with failed congressional candidate Janet Robert. Luther, a prolific fundraiser, was recently mentioned by syndicated columnist Robert Novak to be a likely intra-party challenger to Dayton.

Perhaps more significantly is today's piece by Kevin Diaz wherein possible Luther campaign finance irregularities are revealed:

Minnesota Democrat Bill Luther was not on the ballot for the U.S. House last year, but that didn't stop the former congressman from accepting $12,500 in donations and racking up $63,443 in bills for campaign office expenses, travel and gas for two pickup trucks."


Like Father, Like Son

There is an anecdote famous among Minnesota Republicans and there is much to suggest it isn't apocryphal. It goes like this: after the 1990 mid-term elections, then-President George H.W. Bush was in attendance as President of the Senate -- Dan Quayle -- swore in the freshman class. Among them, of course, was a newly minted Senator Wellstone. Immediately after being sworn in, Wellstone approached the President and began berating him for leading the nation into war to remove Saddam Hussein from Kuwait. Wellstone's gesticulations were thought to be so threatening that the Secret Service had to step in. Bush was said to have muttered -- not believing that Wellstone was an actual U.S. Senator -- "who is this chicken$#%t?"

15 years later another President Bush is forced to question the faculties of another distinguished Minnesota Senator. The 1/27 edition of The Hotline reports the following:

MINNESOTA: Coming Straight From The Top

In his 1/27 news conference, Pres. Bush "dismissed" Sen. Mark Dayton's (D) claim that his administration has lied "repeatedly, flagrantly, intentionally" about Iraq, saying "there are 99 senators other than that person."

Grow: Senator Substance

Doug Grow: "Dayton has substance and...has never been afraid to take political risks."

Doug Grow, Star Tribune
January 27, 2005

Mark Dayton was speaking, from his soul, on the hallowed floor of the U. S. Senate.
The Minnesota Democrat's passionate speech was delivered Tuesday in the so-called debate over whether the Senate should confirm the nomination of Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state.

"I don't like to impugn anyone's integrity," Dayton said in the final moments of his speech. "But I really do not like being lied to repeatedly, flagrantly, intentionally. It is wrong. It is undemocratic. It is un-American and it is dangerous. It is very dangerous and it is occurring far too frequently in this administration."

Dayton's words didn't just fall on deaf ears. They fell on virtually no ears at all.

He believes there were four senators on the floor of the Senate as he spoke in this mighty debate that was not just about Rice, but about U.S. foreign policy.

"Ted Kennedy was there, two or three others," he said. "We have a lot of good speakers here. We don't have many listeners."

Dayton's speech about Rice and the veracity of the administration obviously had no impact on the Senate. On Wednesday, senators voted 85 to 13 to confirm Rice.

The one-sided nature of the vote could be seen as underscoring the commonly held view that Dayton, who is up for reelection in 2006, is a vulnerable target for the Republican Party.

But it is just as possible to see him as a national leader of opposition to the administration.
Right off, that may seem an absurd proposition.
Dayton doesn't create tingles of excitement -- except among Republicans eager to run against him. He has jarring syntax (it's more powerful to read a Dayton speech than to hear one). And he grades low on "schmoozability' scales.

Yet he has potential leadership strengths, the greatest being that he's been one of the few consistent critics of the administration's foreign policy and its veracity problems.

You don't have to agree with him to acknowledge that he was one of the few in Washington with enough heart to say that he didn't think going to war in Iraq was a good idea. He's had the courage to say that the war is not going well.

This criticism is from the heart. He genuinely believes that deception rules the day in D.C.

In a phone conversation Wednesday morning, Dayton recalled a pre-war meeting he had on Sept. 28, 2002, with Rice, then-CIA Director George Tenet and four senators.

"They passed around a 6-inch section of a metal tube," Dayton said. "They repeatedly said that this was absolute proof that Iraq had a program" for building nuclear weapons.

"I learned later that even their own experts didn't agree with that assessment. If she [Rice] didn't know it at the time, she certainly knew it later, but there was never a call saying, 'We misinformed you.' "

He says he gets more information from daily newspapers then he does from top-secret Senate briefings.

More and more, Dayton's clearly stated remarks have been picked up by the national news media, which means he'll gain a growing number of friends and enemies.

Dayton, a leader? Minnesotans involved in the peace movement or politics gasp -- at first -- at the thought. After the initial shock, though, most acknowledge that Dayton has substance and that he never has been afraid to take political risks. (In the early 1970s, for example, he was on President Richard Nixon's infamous enemies list. "Others deserved it more," he said, humbly.)

Substance is a hard sell.

But Chris Gilbert, a political science professor at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minn., fears that because Dayton is up for reelection, people will listen not to what Dayton says, but to the political implications of his words.

"Everything he does is going to be trapped in a reelection narrative," Gilbert said. "We're in a period when loyal dissent gets dragged down as partisan politics. ... Every elected official deserves better than that."

But Dayton does have one more thing in his favor: He's got a vastly bigger audience outside the Senate than inside.


CD-6: Krinkie

Margaret Martin of Our House has the goods on Phil Krinkie. Looks like he's jumping in the upcoming CD-6 intra-party melee.

C'mon in, Phil. The water's fine. You curry favor with DvK for this.

Thune to School Colleagues on Blogs

Hat tip: Jon Lauck via Roll Call for the below. Will a certain Minnesota congressman be in attendance on Saturday afternoon? Inquiring minds want to know.

Congressional Republicans travel to West Virginia on Thursday for a series of meetings with President Bush and several of his senior advisers in an effort to help establish a cohesive legislative strategy for the 109th Congress. ... Beyond the Conference’s presentation, the retreat agenda will include plenty of number crunching. In addition to sessions with pollsters David Winston (who is a Roll Call contributing writer) and Frank Luntz, the National Republican Congressional Committee will unveil a new survey on Social Security conducted by the Tarrance Group.

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Winston will hold a session Saturday afternoon to discuss the growing influence of Web logs. Representatives are scheduled to break camp on Saturday, while the program for Senators continues through Sunday.

Pants On Fire

Any ambitions the St. Paul Pioneer Press had to be a credible alternative to the Strib evaporated Wednesday morning.

Minnesota, you will be happy to know, can boast the heir to Calhoun, Webster, Mansfield and Johnson. By calling Condoleeza Rice a 'liar', we are told, Mark Dayton "rose to the best traditions of that storied chamber."

Minnesota's gifted rhetorician knows how to fire up his base but is, apparently, unable to distinguish between "lying" and incomplete intelligence. Before publishing an updated edition of Profiles In Courage, remember that no one doubts the Iraqi regime had WMD in the recent past. Tens of thousands of Kurdish graves tell us so. The bone-chilling question is where did they go? Any person of sound mind is not betting Hussein beat his botulism into plowshares.


'This has 2006 written all over it'...

...according to Master of the Obvious, Steve Schier of Carleton College:

ST. PAUL - Sen. Mark Dayton will become one of his party's standard-bearers on Medicare reform this year with legislation to allow the health care program to directly negotiate prices with drug companies.

Dayton claimed Monday that the savings gained from eliminating the restriction would "go a long ways" toward paying for beefed-up prescription drug coverage for seniors and the disabled. The bill would also fill gaps that leave some people paying for much of the first $5,000 of Medicare coverage.

"This is about people's lives," said Dayton, D-Minn., who's running for re-election next year. "This is about literally the survival of some of our most fragile citizens."

The provision in the 2003 Medicare law barring the program from negotiating drug prices for about 40 million elderly and disabled patients has been panned by Democrats, including Sen. John Kerry in his presidential campaign.

The Meeting Our Responsibility to Medicare Beneficiaries bill will be one of the Democrats' major health care bills of the legislative session. Dayton said Monday that the Senate Democratic Caucus picked him to carry the bill.

Sponsoring it will give Dayton a strong issue to run on next year. He's widely seen as a vulnerable incumbent.

"This has 2006 written all over it," said Steve Schier, a political science professor at Carleton College in Northfield. "They're trying to help Mark Dayton out."

Two Republican House members, Mark Kennedy and Gil Gutknecht, are already considered likely challengers in 2006. More names could surface as Election Day nears. "There will be no shortage of people lined up to run against Mark Dayton," Schier said.

Dayton, a wealthy department store heir, has been having trouble raising campaign funds. He spent $12 million of his own money in the 2000 election, but said he can't afford to self-fund again. He finished 2004 with just $177,000 in the bank.

Economics 101

Presumably most beef farmers will have the good sense to realize that the way to expand exports is not to practice begger-thy-neighbor trade policy with you largest trading partner. Senator Dayton would have Japan open their borders to U.S. beef while, at the same time, denying it to Canadian beef.

You don't have to be interested in the minutia of beef trade policy to realize our trading partners can see the hypocricy. Beef producers will have fewer markets abroad and beef consumers will pay more at home.

Yecke Bid Likely in CD-6


Former state education commissioner Cheri Pierson Yecke is sizing up a run for Congress in the Sixth District should Rep. Mark Kennedy take a shot at the Senate in 2006.

Yecke's interest, which she expressed in an interview Monday, puts her on a growing list of potential GOP candidates jockeying behind the scenes in case the Kennedy seat becomes vacant. Kennedy, who recently won a third term, has been mum on his political plans. But he is widely expected to enter the race against Democratic Sen. Mark Dayton.

"It's beyond scouting for the seat. I am very interested in that seat," Yecke said. Other Republicans said to be interested in running for the seat are Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer, state Sen. Michele Bachmann, state Rep. Jim Knoblach and state Rep. Phil Krinkie.

The 6th District stretches from the St. Cloud area across the northern Twin Cities suburbs to the Stillwater area. It includes all or most of Anoka, Benton, Sherburne, Stearns, Washington and Wright counties.

Only eight months ago, Yecke suffered a major political defeat when the Minnesota Senate voted along party lines to remove her from the commissioner's post. Yecke, who stressed her conservative views in the interview, said she fits the district. She cited her opposition to abortion rights and her embrace of a tax philosophy that leads to smaller government, among other things.

'Opportunity to Restore Senate Tradition'

Frist apparently thinks a governing majority is meant for -- get this -- governing.

Meanwhile, a great new blog appears that says everything that needs to be said on the subject of judicial confirmations. Bookmark

They Have the Internet on Computers Now?

North Dakota State Senators discover blogging.




As promised, here is the picture of demi-god of the blogosphere -- James Lileks -- signing "The Gallery of Regrettable Food" and "Interior Desecrations" at Keegan's on Saturday evening.

Upon making my introduction as proprietor of Dayton v. Kennedy, Lileks quickly fired back, "Oh yeah. Alien v. Predator."

What did you mean by that, James? The books go on eBay this afternoon.


Blogger's Ball

Somehow the Mrs. and I got past the bouncer last evening and managed to mingle amongst the local blogging glitterati at Keegan's Irish Pub.

Tomorrow I hope to post (with the help of Noodles) my first blog photo -- James Lileks signing our copies of both his magnificent tomes.

Got a few moments of face time with Mitch and ingratiated myself with some boxty. Met Cathy, Kathy (never leave your wingman), Mrs. Bogus (Mama Ellen), Rex, 'Belief' Doug, and Mrs. Policy Guy for the first time. Of course, all the regulars were there including trivia teammates Noodles and First Ringer. Strom was avoiding our table so he could avoid being served with the pending defamation lawsuit for calling us "LOSERS" -- when, in fact, we tied his team for 2nd place on Thursday night. You can run but you can't hide, David.

Thanks to Saint Paul for the name of Mrs. Miller's soon-to-be-appearing Twin Cities real estate blog (per page 131 of Hugh's latest book)

Never got anywhere near The Trunk despite wearing my brand new Powerline sweatshirt. Janacek wouldn't let him mingle with the rabble.

I understand the lovely and talented State Sen. Michele Bachman (and heir apparent in CD-6?) arrived after the Miller's departure. This proved to be the evening's only regret. But if she had the good sense to show up at a gathering of bloggers, her future is bright indeed.


Bob Novak on Dayton v. Kennedy

From the personal anecdote file:

In 1987 I found myself in a St. Cloud Holiday Inn with the rest of the Minnesota Republican Party (all 200 of us). In attendance were Bob Dole, Jack Kemp (what up, Jack?) and my favorite syndicated columnist, Robert Novak. This was pre-history for what today constitutes the conservative movement in Minnesota and the nation. For you young whipper-snappers that was the pre-internet, pre-blogosphere epoch. Hell, it was pre-Rush.

That's why Bob Novak was my favorite. He inhabited the arch-conservative (albeit anti-Israel) chair on the McGlaughlin Group, a show I watched religiously. He made supply-side economics understandable to the laity and his predictions were consistently accurate.

In that ball room in 1987 I found myself standing right behind Novak witnessing Jack Kemp practice his oddly compelling brand of retail politics when I mustered up the courage to ask Bob if he would allow me to take his picture. Much to my chagrin/delight Novak turned around and -- holding an MGD in his hand -- inadvertently belched in my face. Happily, he agreed to the picture.

All of which is to say that I enjoy reading "The Prince of Darkness" whenever possible. That said, the hat tip goes to Jon Lauck at SDP for the "heads-up" on Novak's take on the coming Minnesota Senate race:


First term Sen. Mark Dayton of Minnesota, who depleted his fortune as Dayton-Hudson department store heir by spending $25 million in four statewide political campaigns, is being targeted by Republicans as the most vulnerable Senate Democrat in 2006.

Dayton spent $12 million of his own money to provide nearly all funding for his election in 2000, and his net worth is now officially disclosed as $5 million to $15 million. Facing the need to raise money for the first time, he recently fired his top fund-raisers after he finished the third quarter of 2004 with just $271,000 cash on hand.

In addition to money problems, Dayton slumped in the polls after he alone among U.S. senators closed his Washington offices because of an alleged terrorist threat. Former Rep. Bill Luther is considering a Democratic primary challenge against Dayton. The senator's Republican opponent is expected to be a well-funded Rep. Mark Kennedy.

'Anybody Can Make a Race Against Dayton'

So says Jennifer Duffy, analyst for the Cook Report in this morning's Strib.

In total, Rob Hotakainen assembles a piece with little good news for Minnesota's Senior Senator. He surmises that in addition to Messrs. Kennedy and Gutknecht there may be other high-profile candidates to test the waters. Governor Pawlenty, Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer, former gubernatorial candidate Brian Sullivan and even the beloved Vin Weber may run against the "weakest" Democratic incumbent.

But the Washington Bureau Correspondent could have done a bit more due diligence around D.C. and discovered that Governor Pawlenty is already being bandied about as a presidential or vice-presidential candidate. DvK is willing to predict that Pawlenty and Dick Cheney could be sharing quite the laugh about a certain phone call 4 years hence.

Kiffmeyer is fading even in her race of choice: to replace Mark Kennedy in the 6th District in a likely race against Patty Wetterling.

Weber is making too much money to run and would defer to his old pal Gutknecht.

Sullivan? Maybe. Lots of cash. Pretty. My sense is he's an executive by nature and would prefer another shot at the governor's office in 6 years. Another high-profile loss would spell the end of what could still be a promising political career.



Hotakainen, cont.

And then there's the money problem. Dayton, who financed his own campaign in 2000 has said he will not do the same in 2006. As a result, he does not have the necessary donor base in place.

The Senator musters some lucidity in his prediction that Republicans and third-party groups like the Club for Growth will spend $30 million to $40 million to defeat him. DvK documented Dayton's money problems several days ago. While Hotakainen documents the modest $1.3 million Dayton raised last year, his "burn rate" was .com-like. He ended the year with just $177,000 banked.

Dayton bravely contends, "I wouldn't go into this if I didn't know that I have to raise a lot of money, and I will raise whatever amount of money I need to win". And evidence shows he will say whatever he needs to say in order to raise that money.


Sponge Bob and Dayton

Hotakainen, cont.

As noted on the first of the year, Doctor James Dobson, head of Focus on the Family, will exert his considerable influence -- personal and financial -- in the effort to defeat Dayton much like he did in the waning days of the South Dakota Senate race.

Then, of course, there is the matter of "the closing". Republicans are correctly surmising that this incident will reverberate all the way through election day, 2006. This incident may prove to be the greatest political gift to the GOP since someone informed us that he 'voted for the $87 billion before I voted against it'. The Strib agrees. So, apparently, do the voters.

"I saw what they did to Tom Daschle at the end. They just buried him in sewage", laments Senator Dayton. Perhaps he means this? It's called a blog, Senator. Open source journalism. Nevermind.

Hotakainen concludes his piece with a remarkably prescient quote from Dayton, "It's going to be a titanic battle for the future of Minnesota". Well said, Senator.


First Ring On "Gilly"

From the anecdote file:

DvK had the privilege of hearing then-State Representative Gil Gutknecht speak on behalf of Jack Kemp in late 1987 (man, I'm getting old) at a small Minnesota liberal arts college. Gutknecht found himself preaching to the converted that evening but was still generous with his time. Unfortunately Gutknecht, the brothers Weber, and DvK were all sorely disappointed in the results of Minnesota's precinct caucuses the following March as we lost out to eventual nominee GHWB and "the tax collector for the welfare state" himself. Despite that loss, today the Minnesota GOP is very much a Reagan/Kemp/Coleman party and Gil can be proud of his contribution to reshaping it.

But that was then.

Except for the unfortunate metaphor of "political menopause", The First Ring is spot on once again. The Ringer handicaps Congressman Gutknecht's chances against Mark Kennedy. Prognosis? In the words of many of Gutknecht's constituents in the New Ulm area: nicht so gut.

Buy RCOM at the Ask

DvK's favorite Lefty blogger -- Swing State Project -- chides us for our URL:

In any case, our friends over at Dayton v. Kennedy better
considering (sic) getting a new URL. I just checked, it's available -- but I don't know how user friendly is.

Me either, Tagaris. Me either.

What Up, Gut?

While sharing a Boddingtons with Kurt, Susy, Ringer, Jerry, Craig, David and Jo, news was being made relevant to this blog.

1st District Congressman Gil Gutknecht has decided to test the waters on a 2006 Senate bid:

WASHINGTON - Rep. Gil Gutknecht said Thursday he is considering running for U.S. Senate next year, putting his name on a list of potential Republican candidates that already includes fellow Minnesota Rep. Mark Kennedy.

Gutknecht, a 10-year House veteran, has staked out an independent position on some issues, particularly on allowing Americans to import drugs from Canada.

"I recognize I have to make a decision, for sure one way or another, fairly soon," Gutknecht said in an interview at an inaugural reception sponsored by the Minnesota State Society.

"The problem is you're going to have to raise a mountain of money. You've got to get started fairly early." Gutknecht said he hopes to make a decision in the next couple of months.

Republicans think they've got a good shot at knocking off Sen. Mark Dayton, D-Minn., who has a challenging fund-raising situation of his own. Dayton, a wealthy department store heir, spent $12 million of his own money in the 2000 election, but has said he can't afford to self-fund this year. He finished 2004 with just $177,000 in the bank.

Gutknecht, who represents Rochester, said he didn't envision a primary battle with Kennedy. Instead, switching on a "Godfather" voice, Gutknecht said he hoped it would be settled "by a meeting of all the families" - state party leaders and Minnesota Republicans in Congress.

"If you're going to beat an incumbent, I don't think you can afford the luxury of a split party," Gutknecht said, shifting back to his normal voice. "There's something to be said for having a consensus candidate. I'm a believer that as soon as we can, we should coalesce around one candidate."

Kennedy's political resume has excited some Republicans. In 2000, he knocked off incumbent Rep. David Minge, D-Minn., and in 2002, Democratic incumbent Bill Luther changed districts rather than face Kennedy after redistricting put them together.

Kennedy's office did not respond to requests for comment Thursday.

Former Minnesota U.S. Rep. Vin Weber, now an influential Washington lobbyist, called Gutknecht a strong potential candidate.

"The way he positioned himself the last few years makes him very attractive to a broad range of Minnesotans," Weber said. "He's got kind of the independent, maverick streak Minnesotans like."

But Weber said Kennedy is probably still the front-runner because he's been talking about running for the last couple of years.

"And a lot of people are expecting he'll run, and some have signed up for him," Weber said.
A spokeswoman for Dayton, Chris Lisi, said Dayton is focused on the job of being a senator.

"We're not spending too much time on who may or not be running in 2006," Lisi said.


Time for Nelson v. Harris Blog

Senator Bill Nelson of Florida will seek re-election in 2006.

Advantage Cruella DeVille.

It's Official

They're insane.

Who knew that 8 years from today, GWB would be sworn-in for his 4th term? Sounds like a double-plus good idea.

'Post Modern Political Warfare'

Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that your political party was just routed in both Houses of Congress. You lost the presidency for the 5th time in 7 tries and your party seems poised to nominate another hopeless Northeast liberal in Ms. Rodham come 2008. You have a dearth of talent at the state level to challenge the other party's incumbents in the upcoming congressional elections.

How do you retake the Senate?

Buy up "potential URLs for 2006 GOP candidates".

This is not a parody.

'Protest Vote'

Dayton to vote against Rice's nomination because she "failed to show any repentance".

You can't make this stuff up. Nor would you want to.


Honorable Mention

The First Ring sits down with Harold Shudlick in a two-part interview.


Harold Shudlick. The "GOP activist and former V.A. Staff Chaplain" sounds like my kind of guy. But being the standard bearer against Mark Dayton, the nation's most vulnerable Democratic incumbent? Not so much.

But it's still an interesting interview. Shudlick will have his day. Read Part I and Part II.

But DvK wants to know: boxers or briefs?

Wictory Wednesday: Santorum

Polipundit and his toadies like DvK are asking our readers today to contribute to Senator Rick Santorum's reelection campaign. As we noted last Friday, Bob Casey, Jr., son of the former beloved governor, is weighing a campaign against Santorum. The DSCC is even floating a poll that has Casey ahead by 14 points.

Both sides get "creative" with the numbers in order to get their #1 challenger to take the plunge. Pennsylvania is no exception. Even so, many Democrats figure this could be their one potential pickup in '06.

Keep the seat Red by contributing here.

UPDATE: Patrick Ruffini (is he ever wrong?) offers these heartening thoughts on the 2006 Pennsylvania Senate race.



Hat tip to Jon Lauck for this reference on "Getting Daschled".

Is it just me or is this piece written with Senator Dayton in mind?

Social Security Reform for Dummies

It's time for the White House and Congressional Republicans to give Stuart Butler carte blanche when it comes to communicating the case for fundamental Social Security reform. Now.

The "Netroots" Are Restless

Swing State Project has, in the recent past, accused DvK of being part of the Republican netroots infrastructure. These Kos types maintain that the Democratic Party is ignoring them:

The funny thing is , I have seen firsthand what a wealth of communicative, technical, and organizational talent we have within the netroots. I don't know as much about the right-wing Internet infrastructure, but I would have a hard time believing that it is anywhere near as talented as ours. If we were able to get our shit together and act in concert with the traditional power structure within the Democratic party, what we could accomplish would be limitless.

But that involves a give and take.

As we saw last election cycle with the DCCC v. Kos, and Exley's lack of a seat at the table on the Kerry campaign, I am not sure we are quite there yet. So, the netroots operates in large part independent of the party, and the party fails to harness the limitless potential of the netroots. Everyone loses.

3.) Meanwhile, Republicans are finding a place within their vast noise machine for bloggers to amplify their message.

Look no further than "Rathergate" and the Daschle v. Thune blog.

Let me give the latest best example that just popped into my head. When Harry Reid announced the formation of his "war room," I immediately asked myself what role bloggers would play? I even called his Senate office earlier this week to ask the question and share some ideas.

I am still looking for the answer if anyone can help.


Dayton, Kennedy and the Third Rail

Kevin Diaz manages a competent piece this morning weaving together two looming battles: Dayton v. Kennedy and Social Security reform.

Kennedy signals some wariness of plans currently under discussion. Rightly so. As DvK has said in the recent past here and here, the White House has so far failed to flesh out a plan that is simultaneously good politics and good policy:

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Rep. Mark Kennedy can say two things for sure about Social Security: It's got a long-term money problem and it can't be solved on the backs of seniors.

Much beyond that the Minnesota Republican can't say. He's not alone. There is no plan, other than leaked details that are making many Republicans in Washington nervous.

Benefit cuts? "Who's talking about benefit cuts?" Kennedy said. Personal retirement accounts? "What do personal accounts mean?" he said.

Welcome to the "third rail" of American politics.

A week into President Bush's renewed campaign to overhaul Social Security, many Republicans are wary of signing on to any plan that could have political costs in 2006.

"Whatever we do, somebody's ox is going to get gored," said Rep. John Kline, another Minnesota Republican.

Kline, who is frequently aligned with Bush, added: "So we have to be very careful as we go forward, whose ox we're going to gore."

Democrats, sensing blood in the water, are charging that the White House plans to trade lower guaranteed benefits for future retirees for personal savings accounts with possibly higher but uncertain rates of return. They hope that idea will prove politically toxic in the run-up to the midterm congressional elections next year.

With the AARP, the powerful senior lobby, siding with the Democrats in the early rounds, some Republicans are urging the Bush administration to come out quickly with a clear formulation of the problem -- and then a plan that they can defend.

"You have to establish that we're not going to pull the rug out from under grandma," said Rep. Gil Gutknecht, a Republican who supports the idea of personal savings accounts, as long as they're optional.

Rep. Jim Ramstad, one of four Minnesota Republicans facing reelection to Congress next year, believes that the notion of resistance within the GOP has been overblown. But he said he wants to see the numbers before he endorses any plan to create personal savings accounts under Social Security.

"Most Republicans are keeping their powder dry," Ramstad said. "I certainly am keeping my powder dry because I need to hear the projections on the transition costs. They're all over the board."

'Hornet's nest'

Political experts say that kind of caution is well-founded. Social Security is a bedrock American safety net program that dates back seven decades. Although the approaching retirement of members of the baby boom generation is expected to cause the system to start drawing on its reserves in 2018, the government's Social Security Trustees project that the system will be able to maintain full benefits until at least 2042, which is an eternity in politics.

"I will be dead by then," said Rep. Rob Simmons, 61, R-Conn., speaking to the Washington Post this week. Simmons, questioning the urgency of Bush's Social Security agenda, called it a "political hornet's nest."

Fears of voter anger already have some observers comparing Bush's ambitious Social Security plan to President Bill Clinton's doomed health care initiative, which is sometimes credited with costing the Democrats 53 seats in Congress a decade ago.

"More and more the White House is seeing the early semblances of the Clinton health reform effort," said University of Minnesota political scientist Larry Jacobs. "The similarities are striking."

Even more striking, closer to home, are memories of how Sen. Mark Dayton, D-Minn., used the charge of Social Security "privatization" against then-Republican Sen. Rod Grams, a strong advocate of personal retirement accounts. Minnesota voters sent Grams packing in 2000.

"It's not lost on any Republicans what happened to Grams," Jacobs said.

Among the most cautious of the congressional Republicans from Minnesota is Kennedy, who is weighing a run against Dayton next year. Dayton has panned personal retirement accounts, saying they would divert payroll taxes that now go to pay benefits to current retirees, and thus "would only hasten the day when those annual deficits begin."
Although Democrats contend Kennedy has endorsed the idea, Kennedy says he views it only as an option that should be considered to strengthen the system.

Kennedy, like virtually every other Minnesota Republican in Congress, said he is determined not to do anything that will raise payroll taxes or endanger the benefits of those now retired or nearing retirement.

"Part of the solution is higher returns," he said. Asked if that translates into support for personal retirement accounts, he demurred, saying there is no specific plan: "If you don't have a specific proposal into which you can say 'Here's what it means,' I don't know that you can say that you're for it or against it."

Beltway Boys on 2006 & Social Security

Morton Kondracke writing for Real Clear Politics reveals, among other things, that Ken Mehlman has ambitious fundraising goals for 2006.

Meanwhile Fred Barnes writing for The Weekly Standard reveals the Bush White House has backed away from their trial balloon to scrap the "wage index".

Both amount to good news: the first story on the political front, the second on the policy front. But be advised that the latter has the ability to destroy the former.


More on Dayton's 100% HRC Rating

Belief Seeking Understanding puts some meat on the bones of our post on Senator Dayton's perfect score from the gay-lesbian-bisexual-transgendered lobby Human Rights Campaign.

Dawning of the Age of Aquarius?

Slow news day...

Blog_eric(x) breaks down all sitting U.S. Senators by astrological sign.

I'm not a believer, but do note that one particular Aquarius ("water bearer") has been faithfully carrying the water of the far Left for four years now.

Coincidence? We report, you decide.

Purple People Eaters

This piece is a rip-off of stories other news organizations have long since done, but noteworthy nevertheless with its implications for Minnesota's 2006 Senate race.


Not That There's Anything Wrong With That

Senator Dayton scores a perfect 100% with the Human Rights Campaign for votes in the 108th Congress.

Stabenow Breathes Sigh of Relief

Our friend Staten Island Conservative reminds us of some disappointing news from earlier this week: Rep. Candice Miller has opted out of a challenge to first term Senator Debbie Stabenow.

Maybe she'll pull a Martinez...


The Authorized Versions

Yesterday, Patrick Ruffini rated the Top 10 official websites of sitting U.S. Senators. The winner: Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA).

Good thing, I guess, because the Left is pretty geeked about the prospect of Bob Casey, Jr. taking on Santorum.

DvK wants to know: Did Sen. Dayton break the top 100?

Not So Fast, Rossi

DvK was among the first to call for a 'Rossi v. Cantwell blog' almost a month ago.

'Not so fast', says Nathan Gonzales of the Rothenberg Political Report:

In some respects, Cantwell is an attractive target for GOPers looking to widen their margin in the Senate. The senator was elected in 2000 by just a couple thousand votes (one-tenth of one percent) and she had to spend piles of her own money to get there. But she did defeat incumbent Sen. Slade Gorton (R).
But against Cantwell, Rossi's change message is rendered meaningless and could even work against him. His party controls the White House, the U.S. Senate, and the U.S. House. Any change message that might develop in the next two years will surely benefit Democrats nationwide, not Republicans. And Washington remains a blue state, going 53%-46% for John Kerry over George W. Bush last November.
Rossi's momentum is not necessarily transferable to a Senate race. In races for governor, there is a natural cycle of turnover. After one party has been in power for an extended period of time, voters are willing to give the other party a chance to govern. That's why red-state Wyoming elected a Democrat in 2002. And in blue-state Pennsylvania, the parties have traded the governorship every eight years since World War II. But federal races are entirely different.
So, Republicans should pause before assuming Rossi would be their party's best candidate against Cantwell. It's unclear that Rossi even wants to serve in the U.S. Senate or that he's anxious for another two years of nonstop campaigning. He is definitely a rising star in the state Republican Party, but his best shot at getting elected may be to hold tight and run for governor again in four years. Rossi's 2008 message: Change.
Then again, I will gladly put my 2002 and 2004 Senate prognostications up against Rothenberg any day.

Not Long For This World

So says the New York Post this morning.


From the Mutual Admiration Society

Professor Lauck of South Dakota Politics has been very kind from the inception of DvK to toss us a link now and again. Today he was charitable enough to call DvK "the heir to Daschle v. Thune". Way overstated but also very thoughtful. Which reminds me, Professor Lauck promised me an interview way back in September. Look for it in the next few weeks.

Update: Thanks, also, to The Corner for their generous link this afternoon.

Speaking of Shrum

check out this thread at Daily Kos:

Dayton Hires Shrum Firm to Advise Campaign
by pontificator
Wed Jan 12th, 2005 at 19:36:38 PST

I sure hope Kos and Jerome are coming along quickly with that book on the Democratic party's conflict-of-interest riddled consultant class, because the longer they wait, the more clueless Senate candidates that will sign up Shrum, Devine & Donilon, as well as the rest of the Democratic party establishment consultacracy, for the 2006 elections

Go ahead. Read the whole thing.

No Longer With the Firm

DvK has chronicled the anemic fundraising of Senator Dayton in the past. The AP reports that Dayton has removed his finance director and national fund-raising consultant. To his credit, the Senator had the good sense to know he needs to have more than $177,000 in his coffers less than 22 months before he faces the voters. Even so, "staff shake-ups" are not the lifeblood of successful campaigns.

WASHINGTON -- Two of Sen. Mark Dayton's top financial aides have left his campaign as Dayton seeks to ramp up his fund-raising efforts for next year's election.

Dayton's finance director, Dinah Dale, left the campaign last month, and his national fund-raising consultant, Shari Yost, left in October. Both changes were described as "mutual'' by all three involved.

Dayton, a Minnesota Democrat, has brought in Kim Kauffman, who was a top fund-raiser for last year's failed Senate campaign of North Carolina Democrat Erskine Bowles, to replace Yost. He has not yet hired a replacement for Dale.

In an interview Wednesday, Dayton said he didn't want to discuss the reasons for the changes, except to say, "It's just a matter of raising more money and spending less money to do it.''

Dayton said he raised $1.35 million last year, topping his goal of $1 million. But he finished the year with only $177,000 in the bank. His full report will be filed at the end of the month.

"It cost more than I hoped to spend'' to raise the money, Dayton said. "That's the part that I need to correct.''

Dale, who had been finance director for the late Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn., joined the Dayton campaign in October, 2003.

"Raising money is often a difficult process,'' Dale said. "I have enjoyed a long and productive relationship with the Dayton campaign ... There are different styles and methods to fund-raising. By mutual agreement, Senator Dayton's going to raise money in a way that he's more comfortable with.''

She declined to elaborate.

Yost, a former finance director for Democratic presidential candidate Joe Lieberman, joined Dayton's campaign in September, 2003. She did not respond to requests for comment on the reason for leaving, other than to confirm in an e-mail that it was mutual.

With Congress in recess this week, Dayton is crisscrossing the nation trying to line up major fund-raisers in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

"It's very much face-to-face, one-on-one or small gatherings to have them take a look at me,'' said Dayton, who has expressed an abhorrence for raising money.

"I'm very much focused on people who can not only contribute, but can raise money, host fund-raisers, or have a network of contributors who can help me raise the enormous amount of money that one of these races takes these days.''

Dayton noted that unlike most incumbents, he doesn't have a base of donors to fall back. Dayton, a wealthy department store heir, spent about $12 million of his own money on the 2000 race.

"I have to persuade people that I'm not going to do that again, explain why I'm not going to do that again,'' he said.

Dayton has said he can't afford to self-fund another race, although he won't preclude putting some of his own money into the race.

"I won't rule anything out because I've got to raise the money,'' he said. "But I fully intend and will do my utmost to raise the money I need from other sources.''

Dayton is foregoing another cash source for incumbents by refusing to take political action committee money. His challenging financial situation is one reason Republicans see him as a vulnerable incumbent. Rep. Mark Kennedy, R-Minn., is among those eying a challenge.

Dayton also said he was hiring Shrum, Devine & Donilon as his media adviser, the same firm he used in 2000. Dayton is a longtime friend of Bob Shrum, who was a chief strategist to John Kerry's presidential campaign. But the firm said Wednesday that Shrum was leaving to become a senior fellow at New York University.


Wictory Wednesday

DvK has joined in promoting "Wictory Wednesday" -- an effort of the conservative blogging community to unite each Wednesday in promoting a particular candidate or cause. This week we are asking our readers to support Progress for America's effort to reform Social Security by donating here. You will be helping support this TV spot. You may remember Progress for America from their moving campaign ad, "Ashley's Story" so you can rest assured you will be getting your money's worth.

Eating Their Young

You know things are grim when the Far Left turns on one of their own in Senator Dayton.

Early Start In Michigan Senate Contest

Minnesota is not the only state in the upper-Midwest where the battle lines are already being drawn for campaign '06. The Detroit Free Press reports that Mark Kennedy's Republican colleague in the House, Rep. Candice Miller, would be a formidable candidate against incumbent Senator Debbie Stabenow and is being strongly encouraged by the White House to consider a bid:

President George W. Bush smiled Friday when he introduced U.S. Rep. Candice Miller to a crowd at the Macomb Center for the Performing Arts.

The audience roared its approval for the Harrison Township Republican as she stood and waved. "Sounds like they've heard of you," the president said.

By Friday afternoon, many may have heard the rumor that Bush came to Macomb County -- at least in part -- to tout Miller as a challenger to Michigan's Democratic junior senator, Debbie Stabenow, in 2006.


OT: Pawlenty To Host National Radio Show

Hat tip to Freedom Dogs for pointing out that MN Governor Tim Pawlenty will be hosting Bill Bennett's "Morning In America" show Wednesday, January 12th. The show can be heard 5-8 CST here in the Twin Cities on AM 1280 "The Patriot".

For those with an interest in national Republican politics this is "must listen" radio. DvK reminds our readers that none other than conservative godfather Paul Weyrich -- who oversaw Ronald Reagan's rise to power -- has opined about Pawlenty's enormous talent and future.

But Will His Party Follow?

Congressman Kennedy has signaled he is ready to tackle the difficult issue of Social Security reform, but what about his colleagues? This piece details how as many as 40 Republicans have cold feet on the issue.

Read this in yesterday's Washington Times by Peter Ferrara to find out why the White House's approach to SS is all wet and why Congressional Republicans are justifiably wary.

The solution? Ferrara maintains the only solution that is both politically tenable and fiscally responsible is the Ryan-Sununu plan:

First, large personal accounts like those proposed in legislation by Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. John Sununu completely obviate the wage indexing issue and reduce future Social Security liabilities far more than price indexing would. That bill would allow workers to shift about half of the total Social Security payroll tax to personal accounts, with the accounts substituting for currently promised retirement benefits to the extent workers exercised the option over their careers.
Under the official score of the bill by the system's chief actuary, virtually all Social Security retirement benefits would eventually be shifted to the personal accounts, where workers would actually get much better benefits than Social Security even promises today, let alone what it can pay. As a result, Social Security expenditures for retirement benefits would be reduced by 21 percent by 2030, by 40 percent by 2040, by 50 percent by 2045, by 67 percent by 2050, by 80 percent by 2056 and by 95 percent by 2078.
This approach allows advocates to focus exclusively on the positives of much better benefits for workers through personal accounts and personal ownership of hundreds of thousands of dollars accumulating in the accounts by retirement.
With Social Security liabilities shifted entirely to the accounts, there is no need at all for the negatives of the largest cut in future promised Social Security benefits in world history, which is what price indexing would constitute.
Price indexing, in fact, would cut future promised Social Security benefits for today's young workers by between 30 and 40 percent. Taxes paid through the payroll tax would grow with wages, while future benefits would grow only with prices. Consequently, the miserable rate of return Social Security promises young workers today, even with the current wage indexing, would actually decline each and every year under price indexing, in perpetuity. All workers would eventually receive negative real returns from the program, getting more negative each year forever.
Under the current wage indexed system, the replacement rate, the percentage of preretirement income replaced by Social Security remains stable over time at about 40 percent for average-income workers and 28 percent for low-income workers. That is because incomes increase generally at the rate of growth of wages, and future retirement benefits do as well.
But with price indexing and incomes growing with wages but future benefits growing only with prices, the replacement rate declines each and every year, in perpetuity. Eventually, it would decline to 20 percent for today's young workers, then continue down to 10 percent, 5 percent, etc.

Bush in WSJ on Social Security Reform

President Bush offers his thoughts on Social Security in today's WSJ:

The big issue that Congress will be confronted with early is the -- and part of the ownership society initiative -- is Social Security. The initial debate should be whether or not there is a problem. That became very clear in the presidential debates. There was a difference of opinion between me and my opponent, Senator Kerry. Senator Kerry said that he believed we could grow our way out of the Social Security dilemma. I don't believe that. This is a structural problem that we need to address now, because the problem only becomes worse -- the structural problem -- by virtue of the fact the system was designed when there was a multiplicity of workers, 16, I guess, workers for every recipient, maybe 17 workers for every recipient, and today there's three workers for every recipient. And so there will be two workers for every recipient. In other words, there's not enough people putting money into the pot to pay for that which Congress has promised. And now is the time to fix the issue.

So the initial debate will be whether there's a problem at all, because if over half the Congress doesn't think there's a problem, nothing will happen. This administration firmly believes there is a problem; and not only that, believes that once we recognize the problem, we have a duty to do something about it.

And that's -- maybe that's my nature as a person in public office. I'd like it to be said after, now, my 14 years in public service that when the man saw a problem, he went after it to try to solve it. That was his calling. That's what he felt like was necessary to do, as opposed to shirking the problem and kind of passing it off. I made that point a lot in the campaign. I said, elect me again because I understand the job of a President is to solve problems, not pass them on.

Obviously, within the Social Security debate -- I'm sure you'll ask me questions about it, you're going to want me to try to write the plan right now. Well, after four years as the President, I'm pretty wise about -- I've warned members of the pool that come in here, I'm not negotiating with myself. On the other hand, I have laid out principles.

And one of the important issues in Social Security -- I think two of the things that are going to be important for the members to understand, once they've come to the realization there is a problem, is that no longer can they frighten seniors by saying, if we -- if we do this, seniors aren't going to get their checks. I think it's become pretty clear in people's minds that the issue is not -- does not revolve around those who have retired or those who are near retirement. The issue, really, is about younger workers, and most younger workers believe that they're not going to see a dime unless something is done. And most younger workers, as far as I can tell, like the idea of being able to take some of their own money and managing for their own retirement, in order to more likely fulfill -- have the promise of Social Security fulfilled. So it's going to be an interesting issue and one I'm looking forward to.


Favorable by Comparison

Last Thursday DvK remarked that Senator Boxer, by being the first U.S. Senator to contest the results of the Electoral College, made Senator Dayton look downright statesmanlike. Today Patrick Hynes of The American Spectator agrees.

Blood Sport

If there was any thought that the Democratic Party would put partisanship aside so that Social Security could be salvaged, they just evaporated. We can only hope the White House has the bandwidth to read Hugh Hewitt's warning on the politics of the issue. Clearly the plan of the minority party is to demagogue this issue right back into power -- to the great harm of anyone who hopes to collect on the system in 20 years or more.

After running (and winning) on the issue of fundamental reform of this most sacrosanct of entitlements for three consecutive election cycles, one would think the White House would be prepared to engage the rhetorical battle. Evidently not.

Unless the President is able to quickly begin re-framing the issue he can say goodbye to this once-in-a-generation opportunity to save the nation's retirement system. Unfortunately, by the time another generation comes and goes it will be too late and the actuarial tables will be upside down.

The political implications, while not as important, are every bit as real. Does the White House really expect promising candidates to take the plunge for a Senate run knowing that their incumbent Democratic opponents will shread them for a "40 percent cut in benefits"? Unless the President's team gets in front of this issue -- and fast -- they can expect a dearth of recruiting talent for the next Senate election cycle and the '06 campaign could look an awful lot like the 1986 campaign -- the last second term mid-terms for a Republican president. Unless Messrs. Rove and Mehlman get their act together, Mark Kennedy and others would be well advised to hunker down rather than run into a meatgrinder of Social Security sophistry.


Baghdad Trip Synopsis

Local blogging demi-god Scott Johnson puts together a fantastic summary of Senator Dayton's recently concluded trip to Baghdad. It's much of the same stuff DvK has reported on over the last several weeks but also includes the warm reception received by Norm Coleman during his recent visit to Iraq with Majority Leader Frist. The "stature gap" is on full display so be sure to check it out.

Plus Powerline could really use the traffic...



The First Ring proves, once again, that it is simply first rate. You will not find more cogent analysis and commentary -- on such a wide range of issues -- like you will with 'Dead Ringer'. The next time you are tempted to purchase a subscription to Politics in Minnesota, save your money and bookmark this guy.

Yesterday Ringer put together a solid post on the goings-on in Republican circles to succeed Mark Kennedy in Congressional District #6. The players: Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer; former Education Commissioner Cheri Pierson Yecke and current State Senator Michele Bachmann. The GOP suffers from an embarrassment of riches in CD-6 and it is a shame only one of these women can run. Pierson Yecke is the sentimental favorite of DvK for the way the DFL-controlled Senate maligned this superb talent. But my head and heart is with Bachmann. DvK had the privilege of hearing Bachmann moderate a symposium featuring the foremost Christian apologist of our day, Ravi Zacharias, at the University of Minnesota 2 years ago. Bachmann combines charm, grace and substance unlike few women in public life. While I came to hear Zacharias make the case for faith, I also found myself mesmerized by Bachmann.

Enough fawning. Bookmark Ringu or die.


Harry Reid: Senate Dems Must 'Hire Bloggers'

Professor Jon Lauck of South Dakota Politics, offered up the below post quoting Congress Daily with some accompanying insider information:

Catholic members of the Senate Democratic Caucus warned their colleagues Wednesday the party must find a way to bridge the religion gap between the Democratic Party and voters of faith to regain control of the chamber, Democratic sources said. The warning came during a day-long retreat convened by Minority Leader Reid. Democrats also discussed the role of Web logs last year, focusing on the November defeat of former Minority Leader Daschle.
Sources also tell SDP that Senator Reid copied off articles about the Dakota Blog Alliance and distributed them to Democratic Senators as "must read" items. Reid said Democrats up for re-election in 2006 need to hire bloggers and organize pro-Democratic bloggers in their home states.

PFAW to Dems: Don't Give Up the Filibuster

From today's People For the American Way press release:

President Bush is trying to ram through a dozen controversial judicial nominees who were not confirmed in 2004. As the Washington Post noted, Bush's action amounts to a "childish message to Senate Democrats... : I dare you to try filibustering them again."

When it comes to protecting the courts, the filibuster is one of the most important parliamentary tools progressives have. With the filibuster, it takes 60 Senate votes to cut off debate and confirm right-wing judicial nominees. Without the filibuster, it only take 51 votes to push a nominee through.

The filibuster is sometimes the only leverage we have to defeat right-wing nominees and force the President to compromise. Bush's bluster, echoed by Republican Senate leaders, is meant to frighten Democratic senators away from using it.

Send a message to the Democrats in the Senate: Don't give up the filibuster and don't hesitate to use it when needed!

No Crisis Here. Move Along.

HUMAN EVENTS Asks Congress: Was Bush Right to Pledge No Payroll Tax Hike?

SEN. MARK DAYTON (D.-MINN.): He doesn't have a plan or proposal, yet he's got these conditions. I mean, if he wants to open this whole subject up, I think we have to turn over all the cards face up on the table. Right now, the fund has a $180-billion annual surplus from the existing payroll taxes. There's not a revenue problem now, and depending on how you compute the [Social Security] trust fund and its assets, it's not a financial problem in 2018, as [Bush] cites. So if we're going to be compelled to deal with this, we need to objectively and factually see what we need to do and how to accomplish that.

Glad We Got That Cleared Up

While DvK was enjoying an adult beverage with the local blogging glitterati last evening, newish blogger Jerry Plagge of SD63 took note of Dayton's unpaid political ad on WDFL, er, WCCO. Plagge was 'underwhelmed' by Dayton's observations about the situation on the ground in Iraq. You will be glad to know, however, that Dayton "supports the process" because "success is important".

Tending the Base

With full knowledge that the base of the DFL considers Abu Ghraib to be the moral equivalent of Treblinka, Senator Dayton yesterday made it clear he is "strongly inclined to vote against (Gonzales') nomination".

WASHINGTON - Sen. Mark Dayton said Thursday he will probably vote against the nomination of Alberto Gonzales for attorney general, while Sen. Norm Coleman said he will support the nomination.

Neither senator is on the Judiciary Committee, which held a confirmation hearing on Gonzales on Thursday. But both will vote on the nomination once it comes out of committee.

"I'm extremely troubled by his record based on what I've read so far," Dayton, D-Minn., told reporters on a conference call. "I'm strongly inclined to vote against his confirmation, but I'm not going to make a final determination until the record is complete."

Dayton said he was disturbed by Gonzales' conclusion, as White House counsel, that the Geneva Convention protections for prisoners of war did not apply to terror suspects.

"What causes me greatest trouble so far is his role in condoning and providing a legal framework for the United States to renounce the Geneva Convention, and its proper treatment of prisoners," Dayton said.

The United States should follow the convention because of both morality and self-interest, Dayton said.

"For the United States to be in the position of not upholding those principles and practices is not only immoral but also puts our own troops and citizens at risk," he said.

"It sets the standard that we want to be applied to our own citizens and troops in those situations. We don't have any ground to object if we're not following those practices ourselves."


Democratic Death Throws

The funny thing is many liberal bloggers actually wanted this to happen. Thanks, Babs. You just made the case to keep the grown-ups in charge for a generation or two -- and simultaneously made Mark Dayton look, well, statesmanlike. No small feat. As Redstate puts it, I know that God loves us, but this much?

Stephen Moore's New Project

Yesterday DvK lamented the departure of Stephen Moore from the Club for Growth.

To quote John Edwards, "Hope is on the way!"

Check out this post from The Corner:

STEVE MOORE’S NEXT PROJECT [Rich Lowry ]From the New York Times: “REPUBLICAN LOBBYING GROUP FORMING Stephen Moore, president of the Club for Growth, which raised almost $20 million to support Republican candidates in last year's election, said he was leaving the organization to form an advocacy group that will lobby for Republican positions on economic issues like tax reform and Social Security. The new group, the Free Enterprise Fund, hopes to raise about $15 million for television advertising and other lobbying to bolster President Bush's domestic agenda in Congress. The group will try to marshal support among Republican lawmakers and "hold their feet to the fire," Mr. Moore said.”

More on this later, but it’s my understanding that Pat Toomey will be the new head of the Club for Growth.

You can bet the Free Enterprise Fund will invest handsomely in Mark Kennedy at the appropriate time.

At Least It Rules Him Out For 2008

DvK noted this post from How Appealing blog:

U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) won't support the so-called "nuclear option" to end judicial filibusters: So reports Congressional Quarterly in an article available to subscribers only.



Just as monumental battles shape up over private accounts for Social Security and fundamental tax reform comes word that Stephen Moore, President and co-founder of the Club for Growth, will be leaving the organization in the near term. We can only hope Moore's considerable talents will continue to be brought to bear on these vital issues that have been sought by conservative activists since a certain undergraduate penned God and Man at Yale.

The timing seems dubious to DvK, but we defer to the good judgement -- and excellent record -- of Mr. Moore.

"A Hugely Dangerous Precedent"

Amidst a new Congress being sworn in comes word that Senator Dayton played footsie with the idea of contesting November's presidential election. Last week, you may recall, a group called Citizens Alliance for Secure Elections serenaded Dayton in the pages of the Star Tribune in hopes of securing his aid in challenging the results in Ohio.

Dayton did indeed meet with the group's founder, Minneapolis social worker Mark Halvorson, but decided not to throw in his lot with the foolishness -- evidence that someone new is in the Dayton inner circle with the good sense to whisper quasi-sound advice (Him, perhaps?) when it comes to headline hunting:

There were also hints that passions from the November presidential election could slop over into 2005, with some black Democratic House members vowing to contest the counting of Electoral College votes this week to protest alleged voting irregularities in Ohio.

Among those mentioned as a possible ally was Sen. Mark Dayton, D-Minn., who met Tuesday with Mark Halvorson, a Minnesota social worker and co-founder of the Citizens Alliance for Secure Elections, a group that has been lobbying Dayton to contest the election.

Protest organizers need just one senator to join in a formal written complaint to force a two-hour debate during Thursday's joint session of Congress. A similar effort after the 2000 election failed. Dayton said after the meeting, however, that he doesn't see a sufficient basis for contesting Bush's victory. To put Congress in the position of possibly rescinding the result of the Electoral College, Dayton said, would be "a hugely dangerous precedent."


The Coming DFL Fratricide?

Hat tip, once again, to Minnesota Democrats Exposed for not one but two posts on a possible Mike Hatch intraparty challenge to Mark Dayton. MNDemsEx points out that Hatch has tried this path to power on two other occasions -- both without success. Will the third time be the charm?

DvK does not discount the threat since Hatch may correctly surmise that challenging the popular Pawlenty would be a fool's errand. If ambition forces his hand, Hatch would be less imprudent to challenge Dayton. Nevertheless, the Senator will "wave the bloody shirt" as Wellstone's protege and likely secure renomination.

Even so, the family feud will leave certain Republican nominee Kennedy in an enviable position for the fall 2006 general election as he faces a Dayton depleted of his already meager financial resources.

Social Security Calculator

Check out this fantastic tool for calculating your Social Security rate of return under the status quo vs. private savings accounts.

Now pick your jaw off the floor and get to work electing a Senator who will support Social Security reform.

UPDATE: Now plug your children's ages into the calculator and prepare for your head to really spin!

2006 Blogroll Additions

Regular visitors will note that our 2006 Senate blogroll has grown in recent days to include Cold Hearted Truth's 2006 Senate Page, the DSCC and NRSC, Republican Senate, and Swing State Project.

Hate to say it but the lefties are cleaning up here. is the best of the bunch featuring pictures, graphics and analysis of all the 2006 incumbents and potential challengers. Good site if you can get past the boilerplate America/GOP hatred. Swing State Project is well written with many "correspondents" in the field.

The best thing going on the right side of the blogosphere that we have come across include CHT's 2006 Senate Page which has the promise of excellence but lacks the rich content of their adversaries. Republican Senate is well written and informative but in its nascent stage.

On a happier note, the NRSC buries the DSCC at this point. NRSC visitors, as of today, are greeted by the inviting face of Elizabeth Dole. There is already a "button" to the 2006 races which has the infrastructure for an interactive rundown of each State. The DSCC (as of the time of this writing) features the recently routed John Corzine and his 'apology' for last November's showing.

We invite our readers to pass along any blogs they think merits inclusion in our 2006 blogroll.


Sessions In Session

In the wake of Mark Dayton's D.C. evacuation in October, his colleague from Alabama, Jeff Sessions, wrote Majority Leader Frist asking that "I suggest that you... allocate his Russell office space to me so that my fine staff can make productive use of what would otherwise be idle property."

It seems increasingly likely that Sessions will have his wish if he can hold on for another 22 months. In today's USA Today, Sessions (a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee) reprises the case that those Democrats who would oppose Bush's nominees in the 109th Congress may well share in the fate of their former leader:

President Bush was right to say he will renominate the 20 superb judicial candidates who were denied floor votes by an unprecedented use of the filibuster. Few would dispute that the obstruction of Bush nominees played to the political advantage of Bush and Republican Senate candidates and was an important factor in Republicans' picking up four seats. The leader of the Democratic obstructionism, Tom Daschle, lost his seat. And the one Democrat who won in a competitive race, Ken Salazar of Colorado, pledged not to filibuster nominees.

Whatever one thinks of gay marriage, partial-birth abortion or the Boy Scouts, voters understand that democracy is diminished when un-elected judges set social policy for America. Good judges are not partisans, but fair arbiters of disputes. Bush correctly believes that judges should show restraint and not manipulate court opinions to promote political agendas.

Most important, the 20 individuals Bush intends to renominate are not divisive candidates. Bill Pryor has the support of every major political figure in Alabama, black and white, Republican and Democrat. Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen was endorsed by every major newspaper in Texas. And California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown was re-elected with a higher percentage of votes than any other judicial candidate in California.

USA TODAY should not complain about Bush's action, but should encourage Senate Democrats to crawl back off the limb on which they are perched. It is the Democrats' policies that are threatening collegiality and are contrary to the history of the Senate since its founding. The people heard the debate and spoke clearly. There could be no doubt that Bush would renominate these quality candidates.

There is a strong need to generate more bipartisan work in the Senate to deal with such important issues as Social Security reform and the war on terrorism. But Bush should not be expected to acquiesce in the Democrats' shocking filibuster tactics because that would be contrary to his deeply held beliefs about the judiciary, which he stated repeatedly on the campaign trail.